The great con of The Brothers Bloom ' a caper movie that recognizes the tradition of The Sting and David Mamet, then moves along ' is that it's not about the con jobs at all. The schemes and scams that offbeat outcasts Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) plan offscreen are not all that exciting or complicated, enabling the brothers and their third wheel, Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), to lounge around Eastern Europe in Spy vs. Spy outfits.
It's the characters themselves who sneak up on us, as if we were the marks. Stephen and Bloom have their troubles, to be sure: Bloom is tired of living a lie concocted by Stephen, who professes only to want happiness for his brother. But there's a refreshing lack of self-importance that breezes through the film like a wake-up call from a young filmmaker who wants to remind everyone that these things are supposed to be fun. That filmmaker, Rian Johnson, won acclaim for his high school-noir award-winner Brick in 2005, and now he's let himself loose in a cinematic zoo ' Stephen and Bloom conduct a turning-point emotional scene in the middle of an actual zoo at one point for no reason other than to let a camel mosey into the shot. Johnson's every frame is filled with atmospheric non sequiturs that are distracting, yes, but that seems to be Johnson's point: Going to the movies should be a 'Hey, lookit that!' experience.
As the brothers' mark, Rachel Weisz (playing 'eccentric shut-in rich bitchâ?� Penelope) is remarkable. Her screwball whimsy and freaky obsession with anything that seems remotely interesting shakes and rattles with Lubitschian joy. Bloom says he wants some truth, and he gets a head-on collision course with the potent stuff in Penelope.
If there were any suspicion that the film should stiffen that upper lip and get serious, Penelope dismisses the thought by responding to Bloom's assertion that 'This isn't an adventure storyâ?� with a boisterous 'What are you talking about? It totally is!â?�
Many will point to the delirious preciosity of Wes Anderson's work as a reference point. I would suggest that even Anderson's recent work could use an injection of Johnson's celluloid rapture.